Dean's Lecture Series: Breakthrough Initiatives Event as iCalendar

08 June 2017

5:30 - 6:30pm

Venue: Fisher and Paykel Appliances Auditorium

Location: 12 Grafton Road

FoE Dean's Lecture Series: Pete Worden and Jamie Drew

The Faculty of Engineering’s Deans Lecture Series is an exciting initiative launched in 2016 to build collegiality among our professional and academic community. We thrive on providing a collaborative environment where knowledge is freely shared, so we welcome you to come along, get together, and hear stories from our range of inspirational speakers from engineering and beyond. This ongoing event will showcase different topics, content, formats, and speakers throughout the year.

Our next speaker is Dr Pete Worden, who will be joined by Jamie Drew from Breakthrough Initiatives, an exciting programme founded in 2015 dedicated to the search for extraterrestrial intelligence. Both guests possess research backgrounds in space issues, and most notably, have previously held positions at NASA’s Ames Research Center, one of the agency's ten field centers. Join them as they ponder the big questions we all have about life beyond Earth.


Register now


Breakthrough Initiatives: The Search for Life in the Universe

Breakthrough Initiatives, Breakthrough Prize Foundation         

In February 1990, the Voyager I space probe photographed our home planet from approximately six billion kilometres away. The iconic image reveals a barely visible Earth, measuring at under a pixel, overwhelmed by the vastness of space. Commonly referred to as the Pale Blue Dot, it was initially proposed by astronomer Carl Sagan not for directly scientific purposes, but the potential it could bring to illustrate our place in the universe – "a tiny blue dot set in a sunbeam."

At the Royal Society in London on 20 July 2015, Yuri Milner, Stephen Hawking and Lord Martin Rees announced an initiative – a scientific programme aimed at finding evidence of technological life beyond Earth entitled Breakthrough Listen, and Breakthrough Message, a contest to devise potential messages that represent Earth, life and humanity for other civilisations.

Atop the One World Trade Center in New York on 20 April 2016, Breakthrough Starshot, an interstellar programme with intentions to lay a groundwork for a flyby mission to to Alpha Centauri – the closest star to our Solar System – was announced.

Managed by the Breakthrough Prize Foundation, these are all part of Breakthrough Initiatives, the first of several privately-funded global initiatives aimed at encouraging public debate from a planetary perspective, and to answer fundamental questions about life in the universe: Are we alone? Are there habitable worlds in our galactic neighbourhood? Can we think and act together as one world in the cosmos?


About the speakers

Pete Worden

DR PETE WORDEN is the Chairman of the Breakthrough Prize Foundation and Executive Director of the foundation’s ‘Breakthrough Initiatives’. Prior to joining the Breakthrough Prize Foundation, Dr. Worden was Director of NASA’s Ames Research Center until his retirement on March 31, 2015. He served as a scientific co-investigator for three NASA space science missions – most recently the Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph launched in 2013 to study the Sun, and was a recipient of the NASA Outstanding Leadership Medal for the 1994 Clementine Mission to the moon.

Dr Worden has held several positions in the United States Air Force and was research professor of astronomy at the University of Arizona. His other accolades include the 2009 Federal Laboratory Consortium Laboratory Director of the Year Award and the 2010 Arthur C. Clarke Innovator’s Award. He is a recognized expert on space and science issues – both civil and military, and has been an international leader in building partnerships between governments and the private sector.


Jamie Drew

JAMIE DREW is Chief of Staff and Programme Director for the Breakthrough Initiatives. Prior to this, he worked in the Mission Design Division at NASA Ames Research Center on SOAREX, a rapid and inexpensive sub-orbital re-entry system. He also served as an international relations lead for public-private partnerships in the Office of the Center Director and science manager for the Chief Scientist at NASA Ames. Drew’s technical research interests are in miniature interplanetary-interstellar spacecraft, space resources, electric aviation, unmanned aerial systems, and submersibles. His non-technical interests lie in international relations, policy, documentary film, design, and philosophical questions pertaining to the survival of the human species.